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Friday, April 23, 2010

Chapter Four Continued: William and Louisa

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

By the time of the 1861 census, William Aberhart Sr. was living on his own, working as a blacksmith's assistant.

Egmondville had continued to grow, with a large Presbyterian church that was described as “a plain but spacious edifice capable of accommodating an audience of 450-500 people." William still listed his faith as Lutheran-Evangelical, but he was living in a Presbyterian home, and with no Lutheran church built yet, it's difficult to say if he practiced any religion at that time.

Constant Van Egmond was the magistrate, and since there was no jail in the village, he had the cellar windows of his house barred and used part of the cellar to incarcerate his prisoners. (1)

After Egmond's father died, the bulk of his land was offered at a sheriff’s sale. Eventually, it came to be owned by Christopher Sparling, who persuaded the Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich Railway (later the Buffalo & Lake Huron) to buy their right-of-way through his property. Shortly after, three lawyers and land speculators from the east, Patton, Bernard and Le Froy, bought land from Sparling and immediately had the whole lot surveyed into a town plot they registered as Seaforth. They also cinched the deal for the location of a railway station in Seaforth, offering land and agreeing to build the station at their cost.(2)

As a result, businesses began moving from Egmondville into Seaforth, and soon the town had retail stores, a doctor, a blacksmith, a post office, several hotels, a wagonmaker, and a number of firms engaged in the building trades and in the buying and selling of grain. (3)

In 1868 salt was discovered, giving a further boost to the area, and William went to work in the salt mines. He would also drive stagecoach, trading off with his brother Charles. His half-brother Henry, who was just a baby when they left Prussia, then worked as a teamster for the brewery in Egmondville.

About 1870 William married Louisa Pepper, daughter of John and Elizabeth Pepper from England. (4) Louisa's mother had died when she was quite young, and her father remarried on February 1, 1858, providing a mother for Caroline, Thomas, Timothy and Louisa.

His new wife was Rebekah Dobson, daughter of John and Ruth Dobson from New Brunswick. She was just 24 at the time, and Louisa's father was 44.(5) The couple would add four more children to the roster: William, Roger, George and Lucy.

Louisa's father was a farmer and classed as a Yeoman, meaning a man who cultivated his own land, with political rights, and he was on the voters list as early as 1851. Since grain was a huge industry at the time, and Seaforth a hub for grain distribution, Louisa may have met William on one of her father's trips to market.

In 1874, the couple were able to purchase a 20-hectare wheat farm at the crossroads of Tuckersmith and Hibbert Townships, about 14 miles from Seaforth. He was very successful and was able to gradually increase his holdings, even buying out his brother Henry's adjoining acreage.

William was described as tall and powerful, his muscles hardened from the salt mines, and it was said that he could toss barrels of salt into his wagons with little effort. Local merchants knew him as a thrifty man who struck hard bargains .

He had penetrating blue eyes and a flowing blond beard, worn in the Mennonite fashion, which blew over his shoulders as he drove his high-spirited horses through the countryside. He took no part in the community life, only occasionally joining his friends for drinks at the local tavern. (6)

By now he stated on census reports that he was a member of the 'free church' and since Louisa's father had suggested that he belonged to no church, this was not part of their lifestyle.

Louisa Pepper Aberhart worked alongside her husband on the farm. She was short and, in later life became quite stout, but strong and strong willed. All but one of her children were born without medical assistance, and she even left her bed shortly after the most difficult birth, to milk an ornery cow. She was described as a solitary person, who believed that a woman's place was in the home. She never voted or became involved in the women's suffrage movement, stating that "if men did not know how to run the country, she did not see how women could be expected to do any better." (6)

A bit of anger over the government for something it would appear.

The couple would have eight children, all born in the two-story, buff-coloured brick farmhouse, that was home until 1886, when they moved into Seaforth. Their son Louis ran a mill and machinery business, John became a blacksmith; Charles went to Pharamcy School and his parents set him up in a business; Wilfred became a barber and Harry a crook. Daughter Augusta moved to the U.S. with her husband, where she ran a rooming house and Nettie married and became the proprietor of a restaurant.

And son William (the tall lad in the middle, back row) would choose two unlikely careers, given the family's position on religion and politicians: A preacher and the Premier of Alberta. But he would play an even more important role, by combining those two things, starting the movement toward a desired federal theocracy in Canada.

Chapter Five: Spiritual Awakenings


1. Egmondville and Van Egmond House, Heritage of Huron East, Virtual Tour

2. Seaforth Beginnings, Dean Robinson, Erin: Boston Mills Press, 1987.

3. A Souvenir of Seaforth, Canada. Toronto: The Grip Printing and Publishing Co. for Henderson, Seaforth, c. 1900

4. 1851;Census Place: Fullarton, Perth County, Canada West (Ontario). Schedule: A. Roll: C_11747, Page 57, Line: 10.

5. Huron District Marriage Register, Original Book, R.G. 80-27-1, Vol. 13, Microfilm MS 248 Reel #2, Provincial Archives of Ontario, Toronto.

6. Bible Bill: A Biography of William Aberhart, By: David R. Elliot and Iris Miller, Edmonton: Reidmore Books, 1987, Pg. 3

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